Sunday, March 18, 2018

Disappearing ice

Data may encapsulate the events of a single second or many years; it may span a small patch of Earth or entire systems of suns and planets.

Visualizing data within its natural environment maximizes the potential for learning and discovery. Scientific visualization can clarify data’s relationships in time and space.
In this visualization, the issue of the declining sea ice near the North Pole is set in its natural configuration.
The visualization begins by showing the dynamic beauty of the Arctic sea ice as it responds to winds and ocean currents.
Research into the behavior of the Arctic sea ice for the last 30 years has led to a deeper understanding of how this ice survives from year to year.
In the animation that follows, age of the sea ice is visible, showing the younger ice in darker shades of blue and the oldest ice in brighter white.
An analysis of the age of the Arctic sea ice indicates that it traditionally became older while circulating in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and was then primarily lost in the warmer regions along the eastern coast of Greenland.
In recent years, however, warmer water in the Beaufort Sea, possibly from the Bering Strait, often melts away the sea ice in the summer before it can get older.
This visual representation of the ice age clearly shows how the quantity of older and thicker ice has changed between 1984 and 2016.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Ant Steward : Sailing around the world alone in a tiny open boat

Ant Steward circumnavigated the world in 1992 on the tiny open boat called "Zulu Dawn"
but named "NCS Challenger" for the voyage.
In 1992 Anthony (Ant) Steward left Cape Town, SA amid warm farewells from hundreds of people. His goal: to be the first person to circumnavigate in an open boat.
The craft he selected was a Dudley Dix designed TLC 19 open cockpit day sailor.
Ant beefed it up with DIY structural upgrades, foam flotation, and rig and rudder modifications.
He had nowhere to build his boat and talked a friend into letting him do it inside his apartment.
Getting it into and out of the apartment must have been an interesting exercise.
Resin smells and woodwork noises in the early hours eventually led to an enforced removal to Royal Cape Yacht Club, where she spent the last couple of months before launching.
Many expected to never see him again and talked of his foolishness.
He said that if we thought that he was mad we should get to know his mother, then we would know where he got it from.
He had decided that he was sane and the rest of us were crazy for staying behind.
It would have been a crowded boat if we had not.
For part of the voyage, Ant had a small video camera aboard.
This is his story... 

Friday, March 16, 2018

March 16th, 1978 : Amaco Cadiz oil spill, the day the sea turned black

 40 years ago, the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground on Portsall Rocks, 5 km (3.1 mi) from the coast of Brittany, France, on 16 March 1978, and ultimately split in three and sank, all together resulting in the largest oil spill of its kind in history to that date.
photo : Ouest France

From JerseyEvening

FOUR decades after a devastating oil spill off the Brittany coast threatened to pollute Jersey’s beaches, a special fund established in its wake is looking for more projects to support.

The Jersey Ecology Trust was set up in 1991 with £344,592, Jersey’s share of $155 million damages imposed by an American court on the Amoco Corporation, owners of the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker.

 Position of the 'Amoco Cadiz' shipwreck with the GeoGarage (SHOM)
48°35.56538' N / 4°43.05597 W

The vessel ran aground off the coast of Brittany on 16 March 1978 in extreme storm conditions.
Over the following two weeks, the 223,000 tonnes of oil and 4,000 tonnes of ship’s fuel spewed into the sea in what was the largest oil spill of its kind in history at that time, posing a serious threat to the Channel Islands.

 courtesy of

Thankfully, favourable tidal and wind conditions and rough seas – and the efforts of the Royal Navy, UK and local fishermen to disperse the 40-mile long slick – kept it at bay.

Deputy Scott Wickenden, chairman of the Ecology Fund, said: ‘The Amoco Cadiz spill had a devastating impact on wildlife and marine habitats across the Channel.
However, through the insight and hard work of Islanders who helped establish the Ecology Fund, some good has come out of it.
‘The projects it has helped fund over the years have addressed some of the ongoing environmental issues Jersey faces, such as declining habitat, and impact of development and commercial exploitation, and inspired and educated a new generation.’

 photo Portsall : Ouest France

More than £150,000 has been paid out since 1991 to almost 150 local projects.
These have included a nature garden at Mont à l’Abbé School, Birds on the Edge project to revive declining farmland bird numbers, a study of the local red squirrel population and woodland management training for Jersey Trees for Life.
Mont à l’Abbé School head teacher Liz Searle said: ‘We are grateful to the Ecology Fund for giving us a donation of £1,300 last year to enable us to carry out maintenance in the forest school area, so the children could continue to use this wonderful learning space.’

The threat to the islands from the Amoco Cadiz disaster was over by the end of March 1978.
The islands escaped relatively unscathed but dead birds and tar continued to be washed up on Jersey’s and Guernsey’s beaches for many months.

However, it took many years for the Brittany coast to recover.
By the end of April 1978, the slick had contaminated almost 200 miles of coastline, clogging holiday beaches with a thick black layer of crude oil, contaminating shellfish stocks and killing at least 20,000 sea birds and millions of molluscs, sea urchins and clams.
The clean-up operation involved 6,000 French soldiers and thousands of volunteers.
Some beaches had to be cleaned six times and traces of the pollution can be seen to this day.

Links :

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Warmer, saltier polar water could change global ocean currents

Visualization showing global ocean currents from Jan 01, 2010 to Dec 31, 2012
at sea level then at 2000 meters below sea level.
Credits: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

From Phys by Catherine Collins

Melting ice shelves are changing the ocean's chemistry at the South Pole and the result could be a change in global currents and increased glacial melt, according to scientists who are creating maps to feed into climate change models.

At the North and South Poles, cold dense water sinks, powering the so-called global ocean conveyor belt, a complex system reliant on heat transfer and density that drives ocean currents throughout the world.

When ice shelves melt, they dump freshwater into the sea which lightens the salty water.
Credit: Flickr/NASA ICE, licensed under CC BY 2.0
This system regulates regional climates but is threatened when large amounts of freshwater – such as glacial ice – fall into the sea.
Ice shelf melt means that more glacial ice will be dumped into the ocean, and this risks switching off the conveyor belt, because diluted, less dense saltwater is less likely to sink.In the Antarctic, at depths between 500 and 2000 metres, a surprisingly warm salty water mass can be found, called Circumpolar Deep Water.
At certain points under Antarctica, this warm water comes into contact with the underside of the ice shelves and melts the ice.
If more warm salty water is reaching the bottom of the ice shelves than in previous years, this could fuel an increase in ice-shelf melt.

Dr. Laura Herraiz Borreguero of the University of Southampton, UK, and coordinator of the OCEANIS project, is tracking the movements of this warm salty current, to see if there are any fluctuations or changes compared to previous years.

By analyzing and comparing data collected by other researchers, she has discovered that in the last 20 years, the warm salty water current has become more commonly found.
The effects are even more pronounced in the inhospitable East Antarctica region, a part of the continent that is generally less well-researched than West Antarctica, as it's much more difficult to access.

This visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through December 2007.
The goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience.
This visualization was produced using model output from the joint MIT/JPL project: Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2 (
ECCO2 uses the MIT general circulation model (MITgcm) to synthesize satellite and in-situ data of the global ocean and sea-ice at resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow current systems, which transport heat and carbon in the oceans.
ECCO2 provides ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization.
The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry.
Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.
credit NASA

Speed bumps

Because ice shelves act as speed bumps for glacial ice flow and slow down the rate at which Antarctic glaciers reach the sea, an increase in ice-shelf melt would mean that glaciers could dump vast amounts of freshwater ice into the ocean unchecked.

'If we lose (the ice shelves), the speed of the glaciers could be four to five times faster,' said Dr. Herraiz Borreguero.

Her next challenge is to determine precisely what impact the change in circumpolar deep water will have.
'What I'm looking at now is how this alters the properties of the water around Antarctica, also in relation to the Southern Ocean circulation,' she said.
'Improving our knowledge of ice shelf-ocean interactions is a critical step toward reducing uncertainty in projections of future sea level rise.'

Ocean circulation is also being studied by Dr. Melanie Grenier of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, who coordinates the GCP-GEOTARCTIC project.
The project is part of a multinational collaborative effort called GEOTRACES that aims to better understand global ocean circulation and marine cycles by examining the distribution of dissolved and particulate chemical elements suspended in the water column.

Particle concentrations, distributions and exchanges can tell scientists a lot about what's going on in the water column.
Certain water masses have distinct properties, for example being nutrient-rich, or nutrient-poor, warm, cold, salty or fresh.

 Particles of ash from ancient volcanic eruptions are helping tie together climate records from different sources.
Credit: National Science Foundation/Josh Landis


Dr. Grenier uses a chemical tracer called thorium-230 to monitor the volume of particles and has found that the composition of water at the North Pole is changing.
'The Amerasian Arctic exhibits lower concentrations of this geochemical tracer than in the past, consistent with the increasing trend of sea ice retreat and a subsequent increase of particle concentrations.'

One of the reasons for this is a decrease in ice cover.
Less ice means that more light can enter the ocean and that more life can develop, leading to an increase of marine particles.
Less ice also means more interaction with the atmosphere, notably with the wind, which can increase the mixing in the ocean, and so particles lying in the sediment are re-suspended into the water column.

While this is not necessarily damaging by itself, it is indicative of changes in ocean circulation and could affect the global ocean conveyor belt.
However, it's not known how sensitive that system might be to change, so scientists will have to continue to monitor the situation.

Both OCEANIS and GCP-GEOTARCTIC intend to create maps based on their research – for OCEANIS, detailing the points where warm water reaches Antarctic ice shelves, and for GCP-GEOTARCTIC, a map of global thorium-230 distribution, with input from other GEOTRACES scientists.

Ocean Currents and Sea Ice from Atlas of World Maps,
United States Army Service Forces (1943)


These will be used to develop better-informed models to predict how the planet should react to changes in climate.
The models are also being enhanced by researchers who are aligning climate records from marine sediments and ice by using fine particles of volcanic ash as a common thread.

Vertical cylinders of marine sediment and ice, known as cores, are used by geologists to determine what past climates were like.
As ice freezes or sediment settles, they trap air, particles and fossils that provide clues to the climate at that time.
But, it can be difficult to match a particular piece of a marine sediment core to the corresponding time period of an ice core.

Dr. Peter Abbott of Cardiff University, UK, and the University of Bern, Switzerland, runs a project called SHARP to develop a method of doing just that.

'The technique that I'm using is called tephrochronology,' he said.
'We trace particles from past volcanic eruptions between the ice and the marine cores.
If you can find the same eruption, then it can act as a tie-line between those records as the particles were deposited at the same time in both environments.'

Dr. Abbott uses laboratory methods and optical microscopy to scan the cores and identify ash layers hidden within the ice and marine cores.
Each individual volcanic event leaves a unique chemical fingerprint on the material it expels, which means researchers can use the ash to correctly match up the ice cores and the sediment cores, giving scientists more accurate information about past climates, and consequently improving the predictive models.

'If we can explain how the climate has changed in the past, it gives us a better understanding of how it might be forced in the future,' said Dr. Abbott.

Links :

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Zealand Linz update in the GeoGarage platform

3 nautical raster charts updated

How illegal fishing is being tracked from space

From National Geographic by Sarah Gibbens

Environmentalists are chasing industrial fishers that may be threatening fisheries in developing waters and marine protected areas.

Ocean conservationists from watchdog group Oceana are hunting for illegal fishing activity, and one new method they are exploring for catching offenders is satellite data.

The data comes from a monitoring network called the Automatic Identification System, or AIS.
AIS was established so large ships could broadcast their locations and avoid collisions.

In a new report from Oceana, researchers detail examples of how they used AIS collected by conservation group Global Fishing Watch to track four fishing vessels that were "going dark," or trying to avoid detection.
They say the case studies are examples of how AIS data can be used to track illegal fishing activities in the future.
"Illegal fishing is a global problem that's threatening the sustainability of our world's fisheries," says Lacey Malarky, an analyst for Oceana and co-author on the report.
"It's a big deal for countries that rely on seafood for their livelihoods. [Illegal fishing] really impacts local communities that need oceans to survive."

A report released by Greenpeace last year estimated that illegal fishing in West Africa alone costs the region more than $2 billion annually.

Illegal fishing also threatens a number of marine protected areas that are set up to restrict fishing activities in order to keep marine animal populations healthy, but which may be difficult for many countries to patrol.

Tracking dark ships

In the specific cases Malarky and her co-author Beth Lowell analyzed, ships were transmitting AIS signals for some of the time, and algorithms were then used to identify when the signal ceased for longer than 24 or 48 hours.
"It really is happening everywhere in every ocean and in a lot of countries' national waters," says Malarky.
"These four case studies are just the tip of the iceberg."

A Panamanian ship called the Tiuna was the first fishing boat they identified going dark.
In October 2014, the vessel was transmitting AIS data on the western boundary of the Galápagos Marine Reserve.
The region is one of the most biodiverse on the planet and hosts a number of lucrative fish.
The ship was dark for 15 days before it began transmitting signals again on the reserve's eastern border.

A Panamanian commercial fishing vessel seemed to disappear on the west side of the Galápagos Marine Reserve, reappearing after 15 days on the east side of the reserve. 
Courtesy of Oceana

Over 2015 and 2016, an Australian commercial fishing vessel called the Corinthian Bay appeared to enter a no-take marine reserve on 10 separate occasions.
According to the data, the vessel turned off its AIS system before entering the reserve and turned on its system after exiting.

An Australian commercial fishing vessel appeared to disable its AIS near the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve on 10 separate occasions over one year.

In 2014 and 2015, a Spanish fishing vessel called the Releixo went dark when leaving the port of Dakar in Senegal and entering Gambian waters.
The ship went dark at least 21 times during this period, each time for an average of 16 days.

A Spanish commercial fishing vessel appeared to repeatedly go dark when approaching The Gambia’s national waters over a one-and-a-half-year period.

The final case study highlighted in the report looked at a Spanish vessel called Egaluze that, over a period of seven months from 2012 to 2013, appeared to turn off its AIS system while operating in national waters of five different African countries.
The vessel also turned off its navigation monitoring system while on the high seas.

Another Spanish commercial fishing vessel appeared to turn off its AIS signal consistently over a seven-month period while operating in the national waters of at least five African countries and on the high seas.

"The regions we're highlighting are illegal fishing hotspots," says Malarky.
"Going dark is not necessarily illegal. It may indicate that they're doing something suspicious, but we can't prove they're doing anything illegal because we can't see what they're doing."

Evading detection by pirates, for example, is one reason a fishing vessel may need to disable its AIS detection system.

"It is a difficult task to discern between intentional disabling of the AIS, equipment malfunction, or issues with satellite coverage," says Juan Mayorga, a marine data scientist whose report last month also used Global Fishing Watch data to estimate that industrial fishing covers a third of the planet.

"Despite these limitations, we can—for the first time—use this data to investigate patterns of suspicious behavior and close-in on potentially illegal behavior. A vessel going dark now triggers a signal that tells us when and where to look," Mayorga adds.

Increasing transparency

The report made several recommendations to increase transparency around ships turning off AIS systems.

One is around vessel size.
The International Maritime Organization requires all passenger ships, tankers, and ships above a certain weight to transmit AIS, but the EU mandates the rule only for vessels longer than 15 meters. Individual governments can mandate how to what extent that requirement is enforced and conservationists say this is a major loophole.
"There really is no global standard," adds Malarky.

To track commercial fishing activity around the world, SkyTruth, a small nonprofit based in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, has recently launched Global Fishing Watch in partnership with Google and Oceana.
This prototype tool analyzes a satellite-collected feed of tracking data from ships' automatic identification systems—which vessels use to communicate their location to one another—to map movement over time and automatically determine which ships are engaged in fishing activity.
Each vessel is pinpointed on a map outlining fishing laws around the globe.
This map is publicly available on the Web, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to act as a watchdog and see when and where commercial fishing activity is occurring.

Her report also recommends vessels be required to state why they stop transmitting AIS, paired with stronger enforcement by local governments to punish—and thus deter—law-breaking activities.
In addition to protecting developing nations' fisheries, the report states enforcing AIS best practices plays an important role in helping reach the UN goal of protecting 10 percent of the ocean by 2020 (a goal we likely won't reach).

Links :

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists

From The Guardian by Damian Carrington

A study reveals highest microplastic pollution levels ever recorded in a river in Manchester, UK and shows that billions of particles flooded into the sea from rivers in the area in just one year

Plastic pollution is known to harm marine life and can enter the human food chain via our food and water.
Photograph: Will Rose/Greenpeace

The number of tiny plastic pieces polluting the world’s oceans is vastly greater than thought, new research indicates.

The work reveals the highest microplastic pollution yet discovered anywhere in the world in a river near Manchester in the UK.
It also shows that the major floods in the area in 2015-16 flushed more than 40bn pieces of microplastic into the sea.

The surge of such a vast amount of microplastic from one small river catchment in a single event led the scientists to conclude that the current estimate for the number of particles in the ocean – five trillion – is a major underestimate.

Microplastics include broken-down plastic waste, synthetic fibres and beads found in personal hygiene products.
They are known to harm marine life, which mistake them for food, and can be consumed by humans too via seafood, tap water or other food.
The risk to people is still not known, but there are concerns that microplastics can accumulate toxic chemicals and that the tiniest could enter the bloodstream.

“Given their pervasive and persistent nature, microplastics have become a global environmental concern and a potential risk to human populations,” said Rachel Hurley from the University of Manchester and colleagues in their report, published in Nature Geoscience.

The River Tame, near Manchester, has the highest microplastic pollution yet discovered anywhere in the world
Microplastics concentration in sediments and surface water

The team analysed sediments in 10 rivers within about 20km of Manchester and all but one of the 40 sites showed microplastic contamination.
After the winter floods of 2015-16, they took new samples and found that 70% of the microplastics had been swept away, a total of 43bn particles or 850kg.
Of those, about 17bn would float in sea water.

“This is a small to medium sized catchment in the north of England, it is one flood event, it is just one year – there is no way that [5tn global] estimate is right,” said Hurley.
The researchers said total microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans “must be far higher”.

The worst hotspot, on the River Tame, had more than 500,000 microplastic particles per square metre in the top 10cm of river bed.
This is the worst concentration ever reported and 50% more than the previous record, in beach sediments from South Korea.
But Hurley said there may well be worse places yet to me measured: “We don’t have much data for huge rivers in the global south, which may have so much more plastic in.”

Plastic microbeads, like these recovered from the River Mersey,
are now banned in cosmetics in the UK

“There is so much effort going into the marine side of the microplastic problem but this research shows it is really originating upstream in river catchments,” she said.
“We need to control those sources to even begin to clean up the oceans.”

About a third of microplastics found by the team before the flooding were microbeads, tiny spheres used in personal care products and banned in the UK in January.
This high proportion surprised the scientists, who said the beads may well also derive from industrial uses, which are not covered by the ban.

Erik van Sebille, at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and and not part of the research team, said the work does support a much higher estimate of global microplastic pollution in the oceans: “I’m not surprised by that conclusion.
In 2015, we found that 99% of all plastic in the ocean is not on the surface anymore.
The problem is that we don’t know where that 99% of plastic is.
Is it on beaches, the seafloor, in marine organisms? Before we can start thinking about cleaning up the plastic, we’ll first need to know how it’s distributed.”

Anne Marie Mahon, at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland and also not part of the research team, said: “I am actually glad to see the estimate going up a bit, just to show there is this huge contribution coming from the freshwater system.” However, she cautioned that not all the microplastics shown in the study to be flushed out by the floods necessarily entered the sea – some may have been washed over the floodplain instead.

“It is very difficult to tell how this plastic may be affecting us,” Hurley said.
“But they definitely do enter our bodies.
The missing gap is we need to know if we are getting contaminants inside us as a result of plastic particles.”

The smallest particles that could be analysed in the new research were 63 microns, roughly the width of a human hair.
But much smaller plastic particles will exist, and Hurley said: “It is the really small stuff we get worried about, as they can get through the membranes in the gut and in the bloodstream – that is the real fear.”

Links : 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Using deep learning to forecast ocean waves

IBM Reseach in Dublin has demonstrated that Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) models previously requiring high performance computing could be done with lower-end computing devices such as a Raspberry Pi.

From IBM by Fearghal O'Donncha

Scientists have made amazing advances enabling machines to understand language and process images for such applications as facial recognition, image classification (e.g., “cat” or “dog”) and translation of texts.
Work in the IBM Research lab in Dublin this summer was focused on a very different problem: using AI techniques such as deep learning to forecast a physical process, namely, ocean waves.

Traditional physics-based models are driven by external forces: The tides rise and fall, winds blow in different directions, the depth and physical properties of water influence the speed and height of the waves.
These physical processes and their relationships are encapsulated in the differential equations that are coded into numerical models of wave transport.
The nature of the computations typically demands High Performance Computing infrastructure to resolve the equations.
This high computational expense limits the spatial resolution, physical processes and time-scales that can be investigated by a real-time forecasting platform.

  Representative heat maps of the difference between SWAN- and machine- learning-simulated Hs. The wave-height snapshot on the left shows some trends of local discrepancy (in this image, RMSE is 6 cm) not evident in the right figure, which actually has a higher RMSE (14 cm in this image).

We developed a deep learning framework that provides a 12,000 percent acceleration over these physics-based models at comparable levels of accuracy.
The validated deep-learning framework can be used to perform real-time forecasts of wave conditions using available forecasted boundary wave conditions, ocean currents, and winds.
The huge reduction in computational expense means that
  1. simulations can be made on a Raspberry Pi rather than a HPC centre and
  2. it enables investigation of a vastly increased set of physical conditions, geometries and time-scales by amending input datasets to the deep learning model.
Using a case-study site at Monterey Bay, California, a deep-learning framework was trained to forecast wave conditions at a fraction of the computational cost.
We use the physics-based Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) model to generate training data for the deep learning network.
The model — driven by measured wave conditions, ocean currents from an operational forecasting system, and wind data from The Weather Company — was run between April 1st, 2013 and July 31st, 2017 generating forecasts at three hour intervals to provide a total of 12,400 distinct model outputs.
Specifically, images of 3,111 wave heights and periods could be replicated with the deep-learning algorithm with errors less than those for the SWAN model-verification exercise.
Outputs from SWAN and the deep learning network were compared to observed buoy wave data within the model domain demonstrating that despite the huge reduction in computational expense, the new approach provides comparable levels of accuracy to the traditional physics-based, SWAN model.

Accurate forecasts of ocean wave heights and directions are a valuable resource for many marine-based industries.
Many of these industries operate in harsh environments where power and computing facilities are limited.
A solution to provide highly-accurate wave condition forecasts at low computational cost is essential for improved decision making.

As an example, shipping companies can use highly accurate forecasts to determine the best voyage route in rough seas to minimise a desired metric (e.g. fuel consumption, voyage time, etc.). Aquaculture operators require timely, continuously updating forecasts to inform decision-making related to high-margin activities such as feeding and harvesting.

This study extends and builds on a collaboration between IBM Research – Ireland, Baylor University and the University of Notre Dame. Prof. Scott James from Baylor, who has extensive industry experience in wave forecasting applications, specifically for wave energy, joined the IBM Dublin Research Lab for a summer sabbatical to further an existing research collaboration.
The objective of the sabbatical was to leverage IBM’s skills in AI to extend wave forecasting capabilities beyond current state-of-the-art.
Yushan Zhang, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Notre Dame, brought experience in application of machine learning analytics to a number of research studies.
Together, the blend of modelling skills, machine learning capabilities and industry experience from the three institutions resulted in innovative deep learning solutions to enable wave forecasting at a fraction of the computational cost of current state-of-the-art methods. This method is illustrated in our paper “A Machine Learning Framework to Forecast Wave Conditions.”

Links :

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The deepest dive in Antarctica reveals a sea floor teeming with life

No one really knows what’s in the deep ocean in Antarctica.
Now we have the technology to reach into the ocean depths, we accompanied scientist and deep-sea explorer Jon Copley and became the first to descend to 1000 meters underwater in Antarctica for Blue Planet II.
The exotic creatures we found there will astonish you. 
other video

As the Alucia team worked with the BBC on “Blue Planet II,” advisor scientists Dr. Sylvia Earle (of Mission Blue ) and Dr. Samantha “Mandy” Joye descended in the Alucia submersibles to visit the brine pools and collect samples from this rarely visited ecosystem which could lead to medical breakthroughs or provide clues to the origins of life.
Very few humans have ever seen the mysterious brine pools in person, an alien landscape of underwater lakes so salty that they kill most fish who get too close.
The brine pools, however, are also thriving ecosystems, host to many species, and with a unique microbiological makeup that makes them extremely valuable to study.

Links :

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Rolls-Royce rolls out sophisticated situational awareness for navigators

Rolls-Royce is pioneering a major advance in ship safety with the introduction of our new Intelligent Awareness (IA) system.
IA is an advisory system that enhances the situational awareness of vessel surroundings, critical to decision making, through intelligent data fusion.
This enables safer operation in challenging and complex environments and improves operational efficiency.
Rolls-Royce is a pre-eminent engineering company focused on world-class power and propulsion systems.

Helping crews see the bigger picture :
Our pioneering Intelligent Awareness (IA) system represents a major advance in ship safety.
The system is the first of our Ship Intelligence, remote and autonomous solutions to be developed for commercial marine application.
Combining multiple sensors with intelligent software, IA is designed to mitigate the risks navigators face, especially in poor weather conditions, congested waters or at night.
Essentially, it gives the master and bridge personnel a supreme understanding of the ship’s surroundings.
IA builds on our extensive experience in research into autonomous vessels, gained through participation in the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications project.

Seeing what the human eye cannot :
IA is particularly beneficial for the safe navigation of busy ports or challenging environments, such as dense fog causing poor visibility in busy shipping channels.
The system builds a 3D map of the vessel based on light detection and ranging (LIDAR), which uses a pulsed laser beam to measure distances.
Already in use in autonomous road vehicles, it links to GPS data to create 3D environments, allowing crews to ‘see’ what the human eye can’t.
LIDAR creates a ‘point cloud,’ firing about 300,000 beams of light from a laser and then measuring the time taken to reflect them back to source to render a 3D map.

Further spatial information is gathered from on-board HD cameras, linked to software which can identify vessels or objects and apply learning algorithms to determine characteristics, such as how fast a vessel travels or stops.
LIDAR, GPS, camera data, radar and AIS combine through what we refer to as “data fusion” to provide those controlling the ship with a complete overview of its surroundings.
A ship’s crew can then switch between a 3D map rendered by LIDAR, a radar overlay or a topographical view of the seabed.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Ocean internet : sailing the wired seas

From The Economist

An internet infrastructure is being built to span the oceans

The first use the modern world made of the oceans’ depths was to run telegraph cables across them.
That opened up a new era of intercontinental communication and spurred a new scientific interest in the abyss.
Both enterprises have prospered: single cables now carry as much as 160 terabits across the Atlantic every second; oceanographers have mapped and drilled into the ocean floor around the world.
But they have not come together.
It is now very easy to get vast amounts of data from one side of an ocean to another; but it is hard to get even modest amounts of data out from the ocean itself.
A new infrastructure is needed to enable sensors at sea to transfer their data back to land.

Sebastien de Halleux of Saildrone, the firm whose drones keep an eye on Alaska’s pollock, dreams of doing much more than that.
Saildrone recently increased its build-rate from one a month to one a day; by 2021 Mr de Halleux wants to have a thousand of his little craft sailing the seas.
A full Helen of Troy’s-worth sounds extravagant.
But it is important to put it into context.
First, smartphone components make such boats cheap; Mr de Halleux thinks he can build the whole fleet for less than the cost of one research vessel (roughly $100m).
Second, the ocean is very big.
Divide its surface into 1,000 pieces and each one is still the size of Japan.
That is quite a lot of ground for a single little boat to cover.

There is already one research network considerably larger than this.
An international collaboration called Argo has a regularly replenished fleet of nearly 4,000 untethered buoys (see map) which divide their time between the surface and the depths, drifting at the whim of the currents.
Over ten-day cycles they sink slowly down to about 2,000 meters and back up, measuring temperature and salinity as they go.
Their data have revolutionized oceanographers’ understanding of their subject.
But the network is still sparse—one float for every Honduras-sized patch of ocean.

Carrying a suite of 15 instruments, saildrones 1005 and 1006 started their Pacific journey last September from Alameda, California.
Jennifer Keene, UW/JISAO & NOAA PMEL

Though restricted to the surface, Saildrone’s craft are much more ambitious.
They will not just monitor temperature; they will track fish and pick up pollutants, analyse carbon-dioxide and oxygen concentrations in the water, record the height of the waves and the speed of undersea currents, feel variations in the magnetic field and more.
There are already markets for some of these data: weather forecasters, fisheries managers, oil and gas companies.
For others the scheme has a “Field of Dreams” approach: build the data set and they will come.

Saildrone has so far raised $29m for this work.
Ion Yadigaroglu, managing partner of the Capricorn Group, one of the investors, compares the company to Planet, a satellite company in which Capricorn has also invested.
Planet has used smartphone technology and Silicon Valley agility to produce a constellation of over 100 small satellites.
They provide images of every spot on Earth every day, allowing all sorts of new insights and monitoring possibilities.
“Planet is a scanning platform for the Earth,” he says.
“Saildrone wants to be a scanning platform for the oceans.”

Planet, though, has been able to build a network of ground stations to get its daily terabits of data down from the satellites passing overhead and out to customers.
For Saildrone, where the data start off on the surface, the equivalent would be to build its own satellite network.
This it cannot afford to do, so, like Argo, it uses satellite services provided by others.
And these are expensive.

Argo can afford such satellite services because its floats produce relatively little data—a quick spurt every ten days or so.
Saildrone boats produce far more, and so currently have to throw almost all of it away.
Mr de Halleux says the drones’ filtering algorithms cut the data down by a factor of 60 before transmission.
If the company knew exactly what data the market would put most value on that might be acceptable.
But with data never routinely gathered before it does not know.

Systems are also needed to get data out of the depths and up to the surface.
Eamon Carrig, co-founder of Autonomous Marine Systems (AMS), based in Massachusetts, seeks to meet that need, providing “power, communications and bandwidth for other projects”.
His “datamarans”, which also rely on wind for free propulsion using a solid “wing” sail, are smaller and cheaper than those built by Saildrone.
They are designed to deploy sensors and buoys for third parties, such as Argo, and also to act as relays for things which can communicate only through sound.

Jayson Semmens of the University of Tasmania, who tracks sharks with tiny sensors, says that what he would really like to do would be to “track animals that never break the surface, and find a way to exfiltrate data from them”.
Among other things, live data from underwater animals would allow conservation biologists to manage ecosystems directly, instead of making decisions based on historical averages.
It might be possible to get such data swiftly from fish to shore using a local network of AMS drones equipped with acoustic modems as an intermediary.

 Riptide micro-mini UUV

Other schemes exist for allowing connectivity to pop up as and when needed and swim away when all is done.
Jeff Smith of Riptide Autonomous Solutions, a drone company also based in Massachusetts, is working with POSYDON, a programme run by DARPA, to build a system of small torpedo drones which will swim out and create a temporary acoustic communications chain in any area of the ocean that needs it, bouncing information from drone to drone.

The more of such systems there are, the wider the range of research which will be possible—especially if standards now being developed allow all the different systems to talk to each other.
New buoys could add to the data Argo provides in particular places of interest without the need for a research ship to schlep out and deliver them.
New types of buoy could be added, too.
Last year Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, announced that he would spend $4m on 33 new Argo floats which could go down far deeper than the current ones, profiling temperature, pressure and salinity to a depth of 6,000 metres.

What is most needed, though, is a new generation of satellite internet to get data from the surface to the shore.
Happily this seems to be on the way.
Various companies are racing to deliver high-bandwidth internet to the entire surface of the Earth using hundreds of small, cheap satellites in low orbits.
SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket business, launched its first prototypes on February 22nd.
The main beneficiaries are likely to be people in areas not served by current infrastructure.
But to serve all those parts of the world, these services need to serve all the oceans, as well.

The bottom line

With satellite connectivity available at the surface, and acoustic systems deployed as and when needed below, there would be one more thing needed to complete the picture: a map of the ocean floor.
Valuable in itself, it would also be a great help to underwater vessels trying to navigate or to prospect for minerals.
Being able to compare what sonar shows below you with a map stored on board would make things a lot easier.

The best overall maps of the ocean floor to date have been made from space.
Large underwater features like mountains and trenches exert a gravitational influence on the water above them, subtly changing the shape of the surface.
Orbiting altimeters can measure those small excursions from mean sea level, and computers can use that data to infer what the sea-floor topography responsible for it looks like.
This has produced maps with an average horizontal resolution of 5km—good for getting the gist of things, but little help to a drone trying to find its way.

Maps made with modern sonar systems towed behind research ships are better, but currently cover only 10% of the ocean floor at high resolution.
Jyotika Virmani, an oceanographer working at XPRIZE, a non-profit outfit which gives awards for technological progress, is trying to improve this.
Nineteen teams from around the world have entered the competition she is running to map the sea floor without using any human-piloted craft at all.
The first round of the competition asked the teams to map 100 square kilometres of seabed to a five-metre resolution in under 16 hours.
Next year the second round will ask for the same resolution over 250 square kilometres in a day.
Ms Virmani is hoping the whole seabed will be mapped to a resolution of 100 metres or better by 2030.

That will not be an end to the mysteries of the deep.
But it will mark a new era in their exploration.
With easier communications from any point of the surface, a clearer idea of what lies below each of those points, and ever better sensors populating the volume in between, the oceans will be much better known.
This will not make them any less marvellous.
But it should make it easier to preserve their marvels.

Links :

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sea level rise in the sf bay area just got a lot more dire

Yellow areas are parts of the San Francisco Bay shoreline at risk of flooding by 2100 because of sea level rise (SLR) alone, while red indicates those areas at risk because of both sea level rise and local land subsidence (LLS), based on a new study by UC Berkeley and Arizona State geologists.
(Images by ASU/Manoochehr Shirzaei)

From Wired by Matt Simon

If you moveto the San Francisco Bay Area, prepare to pay some of the most exorbitant home prices on the planet.
Also, prepare for the fact that someday, your new home could be underwater—and not just financially.

Sea level rise threatens to wipe out swaths of the Bay's densely populated coastlines, and a new study out today in Science Advances paints an even more dire scenario: The coastal land is also sinking, making a rising sea that much more precarious.
Considering sea level rise alone, models show that, on the low end, 20 square miles could be inundated by 2100.
But factor in subsiding land and that estimate jumps to almost 50 square miles.
The high end? 165 square miles lost.

 Foster City, many areas of which could be flooded in 2100 because of rising sea levels (SLR, yellow), will be even more at risk because of local land subsidence (SLR+LLS, red).

The problem is a geological phenomenon called subsidence.
Different kinds of land sink at different rates.
Take, for instance, Treasure Island, which resides between San Francisco and Oakland.
It’s an artificial island made of landfill, and it’s sinking fast, at a rate of a third of an inch a year.
San Francisco Airport is also sinking fast and could see half its runways and taxiways underwater by 2100, according to the new analysis.

Now, subsidence is nothing new to climate scientists.
“People have been aware that this is an issue,” says UC Berkeley’s Roland Burgmann, coauthor of the paper.
“What was missing was really data that has high enough resolution and accuracy to fully integrate” subsidence in the Bay Area.

 San Francisco International Airport’s runways will be flooded by 2100 because of sea level rise (yellow) and subsidence of landfill used to construct the airport (red).

To get that data, the researchers took precise measurements of the landscape from lidar-equipped aircraft.
They combined this with data from satellites, which fire radar signals at the ground and analyze the return signals to estimate how fast land is moving either toward the spacecraft or away from them.

By comparing data from 2007 to 2011, the team showed that most of the Bay’s coastline is subsiding at a rate of less than 2 millimeters a year.
Which may not seem like much, but those millimeters add up, especially considering a study that came out last month suggested sea level rise is accelerating.

"You talk to someone about, Oh the land is going down a millimeter a year, and that can be kind of unimpressive," says the University of Nevada Reno's William Hammond, who studies subsidence but was not involved in the study.
"But we know as scientists that these motions, especially if they come from plate tectonics, that they are relentless and they will never stop, at least as long as we're alive on this planet."

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and San Francisco are seen from Oakland, California Ruters/Stephen Lam

Speaking of being alive on this planet: Humans have induced subsidence at an astonishing scale by rapidly depleting aquifers.
Take the South Bay, for instance.
“Parts of San Jose have been lowered up to 12 feet due to groundwater extraction,” says USGS coastal geologist Patrick Barnard.
Fortunately, the extraction policies that led to those losses are kaput.
But the same can’t be said for the rest of the planet, in particular for communities that are suffering drought exacerbated by climate change.

“It's not a major concern for the Bay anymore,” Barnard adds,
“but it is for in general aquifers worldwide, especially in developing countries where a lot of groundwater is extracted from these large river deltas where millions of people live. They're already extremely vulnerable to sea level rise.”

 Treasure Island is among the regions singled out by scientists behind the study.
NOAA nautical chart map with the GeoGarage platform

The developing world is nowhere near ready to deal with subsidence and rising seas, but neither is the developed world.
This is a problem that defies human ingenuity.
It’s not like the San Francisco Bay Area can build one giant sea wall to insulate itself.
And it’s not like low-lying Florida can hike itself up, or New York City can move itself inland a few hundred miles.

“There is no permanent solution to this problem,” says Arizona State University geophysicist Manoochehr Shirzaei, lead author of the paper.
“This will impact us one way or another. The forces are immense, it's a very powerful process, the cost of really dealing with it is huge, and it requires long-term planning. I'm not so sure there's a good way to avoid it.”

 San Francisco Bay from space by Copenicus EU Sentinel2

Save for keeping seas from rising in the first place.
That, of course, would require a tremendous global effort to cut back emissions.
But even conservative projections suggest future sea level rise could be dramatic.
Which means we as a species have to seriously reconsider the idea of a coastal town, or in case of the Bay Area, a sprawling coastal metropolis.
Because the sea is coming to swallow us, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Links :

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Oldest-known message in a bottle found on WA beach 132 years after being tossed overboard

On Sunday January 21st, 2018, Kym and Tonya Illman discovered a bottle on a beachside sand dune just north of Wedge Island in Western Australia.

From WashingtonPost by Theresa Vargas

Before there were computers and GPS beacons to track the ocean’s whims, there were slips of paper and bottles.
Or more specifically, slips of paper in bottles.

The world’s oldest message in a bottle was recently discovered on a beach in Western Australia, 132 years after it was tossed into the Indian Ocean as part of an experiment on ocean drift patterns, according to experts who call it “an exceedingly rare find.”
The previous record for the oldest message in a bottle was 108 years.

A report released by the Western Australia Museum details how the bottle was found and what its well-preserved message reveals about science and history.

The world's oldest-known message in a bottle — a form filled out as part of a German experiment to understand ocean currents.
Supplied: Kym Illman 

The dark green glass bottle, which measured less than 9 inches long and 3 inches wide, was found in January north of Perth by a woman named Tonya Illman, according to a museum news release Tuesday that quotes Illman on the surprising discovery.
She and a friend were walking along the dunes when she saw it near where her son’s car had become bogged down in soft sand.
“It just looked like a lovely old bottle, so I picked it up thinking it might look good in my bookcase,” Illman said.
“My son’s girlfriend was the one who discovered the note when she went to tip the sand out. The note was damp, rolled tightly and wrapped with string. We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting on it.”

The form reveals the date the bottle was jettisoned along with the ship's name, home port, co-ordinates and travel route.
Supplied: Kym Illman

After some research and excitement, the family not knowing if what they found was “historically significant or a very inventive hoax,” brought their discovery to the museum.
Experts there took detailed measurements of everything from the narrow opening of the bottle to the twine wrapped around the yellowed paper inside of it.
There was no cork, and researchers believe it may have dried out, shrunk and dislodged at some point.
Because the paper was so well preserved, they also believe the bottle probably washed onto shore within a year of being thrown and lay buried for more than a century in damp sand.

With help from the WA Maritime Museum and the Australian National Maritime Museum, Kym and Tonya Illman were able to trace the origins of the world’s oldest message in a bottle all the way to Elsfleth, Germany.

On the paper were two significant details: the date June 12, 1886, and the name of a ship, “Paula.”

More digging, along with help from authorities in the Netherlands and Germany, revealed that the bottle was part of a long-term German Naval Observatory program studying global ocean currents.
An entry in the Paula’s meteorological journal written by the captain detailed the bottle being tossed overboard on the same date listed on the paper.

A painting of the German merchant sailing ship Paula in 1880 by artist Edouard Adam.
(Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum-Unterweser)

The route of the Paula with dates showing when bottles were tossed.
Source: Deutscher Wetterdienst / German Weather Service

The handwriting also matched his, down the extra curl in his C’s.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-century, incredibly fortuitous find,” curator Ross Anderson, who led the research, said Tuesday by phone. The bottle represents an early stage of people trying to get a scientific understanding of the oceans, he said.
“There’s still so much to learn.”

 Driftchart for bottles thrown overboard in the Indian Ocean.
Source: Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH),
Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency.

The museum’s report lauds the discovery’s scientific significance.
“Ocean current and drift patterns are still not completely understood, and modern scientific work continues to investigate ocean currents, gyres, and drift patterns using drifters with GPS beacons and other drift targets,” the report reads.
“The need to understand long-term climate change patterns has also seen historic data, such as that recorded in Paula’s meteorological journal and other 19th century ships’ logbooks, added as datasets into global climate models.”

The report links the bottle to German scientist Georg von Neumayer, who implemented a drift bottle experiment from 1864 to 1933 that involved thousands of bottles being thrown overboard with preprinted message slips inside.
Ship captains were expected to write in details on one side of the paper, and those who found the bottles were asked to fill out the back and return the notes to either to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg or the nearest German consulate.
Only 662 message slips were returned.
Before the latest discovery, the last one was found in January 1934.

Links :

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sunken World War II aircraft carrier found by deep-sea expedition

The final resting place of the USS Lexington, a World War II-era aircraft carrier, has been discovered 76 years after it was sunk in the Coral Sea, more than 500 miles off the coast of Australia.
One of the first aircraft carriers ever built by the U.S., the Lexington sank during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942.
The ship went down with 216 crew members and 35 aircraft.
But 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued by awaiting U.S. ships.
The Lexington was the first aircraft carrier to be sunk in history.
The Battle of the Coral Sea stopped an important Japanese advance on Australia and New Guinea, and one month later the Battle of Midway permanently turned war in favor of the U.S.

 From National Geographic by Elaina Zachos

The U.S.S. Lexington has finally been found, decades later and thousands of feet underwater.

The crew of Research Vessel Petrel (R/V Petrel), the exploration ship of billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, discovered the wreckage of the World War II-era aircraft carrier Monday.
It was found about two miles below the surface of the Coral Sea and more than 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia.

 Position of the shipwreck in the GeoGarage platform (AHS nautical chart)

The Lexington is one of the first aircraft carriers built by the U.S.
It went down in 1942 with 216 crewmembers and 35 aircraft on board, and it's finally been found.

Anti-aircraft artillery helped the U.S.S. Lexington in battle against Japanese ships.
The aircraft carrier, "Lady Lex" was found more than 3,000 meters below the surface, resting on the floor of the Coral Sea more than 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia.

Wartime relics

Allen is the son of a WWII veteran, and the R/V Petrel team had been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months after they were given coordinates for where the sunken ship might be.
For this, they retrofitted their 250-foot vessel, originally deployed to the Philippine Sea in 2017, with subsea equipment that can reach depths up to three and a half miles.
(Read: "How Microsoft Billionaire Found Largest Sunken Battleship")

"We're dealing with an environment out here that is very harsh," Robert Kraft, Allen's director of subsea operations, told media.
"It's thousands of meters deep and it's very unpredictable. We're putting, you know, a lot of electronics and high voltage down in very deep waters and sea waters where it shouldn't belong, and so that always presents challenges."

End of the USS Lexington (1942)

First commissioned as a battlecruiser, the Lexington was launched as an aircraft carrier in 1925.
On May 4, 1942, the ship fought with the U.S.S. Yorktown against three Japanese carriers in the first carrier-on-carrier battle in history.
The Lexington sustained multiple hits from bombs and torpedoes until succumbing on May 8.
A secondary explosion had set uncontrollable fires raging through the vessel, triggering the call to abandon ship.
The U.S.S. Phelps delivered the final torpedoes that finally sank the ship.
(Read: "Wreckage of WWII-Era Warship U.S.S. Indianapolis Found After 72 Years")

With U.S. ships nearby, 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued from the doomed vessel.
Among them was the captain and his dog Wags, the ship's ever-present mascot.
This episode was the first aircraft carrier casualty in history.

 Position of the shipwreck in the GeoGarage platform (AHS nautical chart)
15°20'S / 155°30'E

Several ships went under along with the Lexington.
The U.S.'s Sims, Neosho, and Yorktown succumbed to the waters.
The Japanese carrier Shōhō also went under, and the fleet carrier Shōkaku sustained significant damage.
The Battle of the Coral Sea halted a Japanese advance, and it also marked the first time two dueling ships never came within sight of each other.

Under the sea

Allen's other expeditions have yielded discoveries.
His team helped to find the U.S.S. Ward in November 2017, U.S.S. Indianapolis in August 2017, and the U.S.S. Astoria in February 2015.
He also helped to find the Japanese battleship Musashi and the Italian destroyer Artigliere in March 2015 and 2017, respectively.
(Read about how the billionaire's 300-foot yacht allegedly damaged protected coral reefs.)

Underwater footage shows the large guns and blast shields the carrier once brandished, as well as some airplanes strewn about the ocean floor.
Three-quarters of a century submerged underwater has taken a toll on the once-seaworthy vessel, but it is doubtlessly a notable historical and archaeological find
"It's kind of all this effort you've put in has paid off and for me, personally, I feel a bit of relief and I look forward to the next part of it, which is exploring the wreck," pilot and researcher Paul Mayer told media.
"And then very soon after that, I look forward to going and looking for the next one."

Links :